Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bill Nighy, Margaret Thatcher, my mother

And now possibly me. All with a condition where the middle fingers curl towards the palm. Maggie and my mum had operations, privately in the former case, on the NHS in the latter. Bill Nighy hasn't. I will like a shot if I'm right and the condition really sets in. It's annoyingly in my right hand. Oh to be ambidextrous - or at least to touch type!

I'm back from Italy, covered in mosquito bites. On the Trieste coast, it was hotter than it had been in any May "since records began." I was writing my adult novel, proofreading my daughter's latest and generally having good bookchats with two writer friends.

Last year we were making hot water bottles at night; this time it was so hot and airless even a cotton sheet was too much.

Before I left I went to a booklaunch for Leslie Wilson's Saving Rafael, where there were several friends from the "other" SAS. I met a splendid teenager who was doing her GCSEs but had also taken part in a NaNoWriMo. Quite an achievement for a full-time school student.

I also went to the SCBWI retreat in Staffordshire to give two talks - one on writing across the age range and one on how to manage a writing career. Funnily enough the two editors who were offering critiques to would-be-published children's writers were both ones I had some knowledge of, one them my daughter's new editor.

As a wise friend of mine said, "When you start in this business, the editors seem like your mothers; then time passes and they are your contemporaries;finally they are the same age as your grown-up daughters!" And I suppose you could add grand-daughters if, like me, you are a writer who will never retire.

SCBWI has a good track record for its members becoming published; I met one who had been given a three-book deal with my own publisher.

On the subject of which, I forgot to say that my editor loves City of Ships. Careless of me. Her edits will come any day and have to be done by the end of June so I shall be busy. And I have a nice Dutch offer for Troubadour and an invitation to speak at some schools in Paris next term.

In Italy I read Kate Atkinson's When will there be good news? which was so compelling that I stayed up till 2am one night to finish it and then handed it to one of my friends because I was so desperate to discuss the ending with someone! I didn't feel the ending was completely incredible as with One Good Turn but I DID want to know HOW what happened had happened.

I also semi-read Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, but there was a bit too much about salmon for me.

Since being back I've finished Somewhere towards the end, Diana Athill's prize-winning memoir of old age. I liked it much better than Stet.

I saw with a terrible feeling of imminent deprivation, the last episode of ER last night. It does feel like parting with dear friends, even though I didn't much like some of them.

In Italy we went to see the lovely little castle at Duino, where Rilke wrote at least two of the Elegies. He had his own terrace, two in fact, where he wrote, looking out over the sea and the cliff with the ruined castle where the White Lady rock commemorates a woman who was thrown over the cliff by a jealous husband. She was turned mid-air into the rock and resumed human shape at night to visit her child.

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